Thinking about Homeschooling During COVID? 6 Things to Know (that will calm you down!)

by | Aug 11, 2020 | Uncategorized | 22 comments

Homeschooling During COVID: 6 Things to Know
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With COVID still spreading, many parents are playing around with the idea of homeschooling this year.

I know this isn’t normally what I talk about on this blog, but I did homeschool both of my girls all the way through, from kindergarten to graduating high school. Both went on to university. Both are very bright and accomplished. And we honestly loved homeschooling.

Homeschooling my kids when they were younger.

My girls with a “stone age” project

So I have some things I’d like to share that can hopefully calm some fears and give parents a new perspective. To my regular readers: Thanks for having patience with me today! And share this, too, because others may really need to read it!

1. Think about this year as making sure your kids have a great educational foundation

Basic numeracy and literacy skills are a near universal prerequisite for success in life. You need to be able to read and write well, and have basic reading comprehension. And you need to be able to understand basic math and do basic math.

However, kids are not guaranteed to master basic literacy and numeracy just because they attend school. In fact, many things that are foundational to good math skills or reading skills are no longer stressed in many schools.

I don’t want to get into a critique of the school system, but suffice it to say that many kids are graduating high school without being able to do basic math in their head, and without strong reading skills, largely because they skipped foundational steps. Instead of being taught phonics well, or instead of being taught to memorize the times tables or the addition and subtraction facts, other things were emphasized. I’m amazed at how many young cashiers can’t make change, or how many kids have atrocious spelling.

And that too easily can hold you back in later life.

So if you are considering homeschooling for a year to avoid COVID, then think of this as the year when you can make the foundations of your kids’ education strong.

You can make sure math facts are memorized. You can do a rigorous phonics program with them or a great grammar or writing program. This could be the year that they catch up on some building blocks they’ve been missing, which will allow them to sail through in the years ahead.

When kids fall behind in one grade, it snowballs in future grades. If you never know 7×8=56 in your head, then it makes complex math problems more difficult once you get to high school. They keep getting further and further behind.

Strengthen the foundation, though, and the rest of school becomes much easier! This could be the year that you get everything caught up, or even ahead, so that they can succeed later.

And honestly–I cannot recommend Saxon Math curriculum enough. It’s so comprehensive, it helps drill kids with the basics, and they truly understand math afterwards. I used it all the way through with our kids and it was awesome. In the younger grades, you start everyday with mental math, counting coins, telling the temperature, telling the time, using a 100 numbers chart, and counting by sequences. Do that everyday–and they’ll GET it.

2. To succeed in high school, they only need these two basic things

We were always told that to do well in high school, kids only need two basic things:

  1. They need to know basic math, including memorizing all addition/subtraction/multiplication/division facts up to 12, and working with fractions
  2. They need to be able to write a decent paragraph, with proper spelling and grammar, that consists of a topic sentence, three supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence.

That’s it. Really.

Sure, it’s great if they know the different parts of a bug, or what happened in the Egyptian empire, or the main articles of the constitution. But it’s not necessary, and it’s very easy to learn those things from books quickly later. If they can do math in their head, and they know fractions, and if they know enough spelling and grammar to write a decent paragraph, then they can take those skills and use them to do well in history, and science, and English, and more. But if they don’t know these things, writing a book report, or figuring out Biology experiments, or doing Algebra will be that much more difficult.

When we homeschooled, we spent a lot of time on History and Science and Poetry and more because we wanted to. We taught them Latin. They did Art History, too. But in the end, what put them in good stead was a solid grasp of math and grammar. With that, they could then apply those basic skills to everything else.

Instead of panicking that you’ll never teach your kids everything they’ll learn at school, then, remember that you don’t have to.

3. Concentrate on the basics–and then read, read, read

Just concentrate on the basics. Do a solid math program and a solid grammar program (or phonics or spelling if they’re younger) every day. It doesn’t even need to take that long! You can do solid math and english in about an hour and a half, or a bit longer if they’re older, but that’s it.

And then with the rest of the day–read, read, read. Go to the library. Get out a ton of books on owls, and have the kids do projects on owls and paint owls and write poetry about owls. Watch YouTube videos about owls, or documentaries about owls. Get books out on the Underground Railroad and slavery and read a ton of things and have them write a short story about it. Have them design a quilt that points the way north.

Get books on at-home science experiments that are fun and let them play with baking soda and vinegar. See if they can clean your drains! Have them research homemade cleaning products and do experiments on which ones work better.

There’s so much you can do–just pick a topic and then do it to your heart’s content.

Read books with them constantly. Have them read constantly. Learn the fun of reading again, and then build projects around that, and you’ll even find that your kids really enjoy it!

Katie reading in bed

Many of our homeschooling days started late because the kids would be reading a wonderful book in bed!

4. You do not need to recreate school. You do not need to do school for 6 hours a day.

Our kids were always several grade levels ahead in almost everything. They both started university as soon as they turned 16.

But we never schooled for more than 4 hours a day, ever. They had part-time jobs n high school, often during the day. They did music lessons and swimming lessons during the day.

When you’re working one-on-one (or two-on-one), and you don’t have all the busy work that school does, you can get a lot done in much less time.

Do not think that you have to spend the same amount of time in school as they do when they’re AT school. Simply choose lessons to do each day (and curriculum can help you do that), and then get through those lessons, and if they get through it quickly–that’s perfectly fine!

5. You do not need to use the school’s curriculum–unless your state/province requires it

It’s okay to just concentrate on the basics, and then just pursue what your kids are interested in. Especially if you’re homeschooling more than one child, it’s much easier to pick a topic–like owls or slavery or Egypt–and do projects with all the kids than it is to have one kid to Egypt and one kid do owls and one kid do bugs or the constitution or apples. Then you can read books together and the kids can make artwork together and you can have fun together on the same topic.

Homeschooling During COVID

We mummified some oranges for a project one year!

Our mummies in their wrappings

Also, remember that kids don’t need to stay at their grade level. If your child fell behind last year, or never really mastered math facts, then go back a few years and redo it. You’ll likely find if they can get the basics really taught, then they can whiz through and catch up. Or if they totally understand something, it’s okay to move ahead to the next year in the math curriculum.

At one point Katie was supposed to be in grade 3, and she was doing grade 6 math, grade 4 spelling and grade 5 grammar. She was all over the place. But it didn’t matter, because she was at home. That’s the beauty of it! We tended to work at the level where the kids would get 75% without trying too hard. If they could get 100% or 90%, then they weren’t being challenged enough. If they couldn’t get 75% without trying too hard, then they likely missed a step previously and it was time to go backwards.

Some states or provinces may require that you do their curriculum, but if I could offer an honest suggestion: if you do online school with your school distinct, you’ll still likely have to do an hour and a half or so of homework with them a day, and it will be frustrating because it will be homework that someone else picked that isn’t geared to your child. So you’ll be doing the same amount of work as if you just picked a math and English curriculum that was at the right level for your child that you felt was better.

If you want to do online school with your school district–go for it! But it’s also okay to take a step back and use this year to figure out what would work best for your own child.

6. It does not really matter how or where your kids get their work done

I could never keep Katie in a chair. It was awful. We used to have so many fights about it. She was so squirmy and she wouldn’t concentrate, unlike her big sister Rebecca (who concentrated even harder every time Katie squirmed to prove she was the best!).

Then one day I came downstairs to find Katie doing math, perfectly contented, while sitting on the floor in the splits.

She did math much better on the floor than she ever did while sitting at a table.

We would do math facts while skipping rope. I would hold up a flashcard, and they would give a new answer each skip of the rope. It helped maintain a rhythm. We would toss a ball back and forth when they were listing off the capitals of the provinces of Canada, or listing all the kings/queens of England.

You don’t need to do school at a table. You can be creative! The main thing for me was always: your work had to be neat and legible, and it had to be done well. But if you give me the end result, I give you the freedom to get there in whatever way works best for you!

I know not everyone is in a position to homeschool, even if they want to.

I know many would love to, but work schedules will not allow it. I know others would love to, but they really want their kids to be with their friends, and their kids want that, too.

That’s fine! I just also know that there are many parents who are wary of sending kids back to school when COVID cases are rising, or when we know the second wave will hit, and yet they’re nervous about whether or not they can do this. And I just wanted to say–don’t judge your ability to homeschool this year based on what happened last spring when everyone was trying to coordinate with the classroom and do online school with their teachers or find homework.

It is a different ballgame, and if you choose to homeschool right off the bat, your year could actually be quite fun and not that stressful.

If people want, tomorrow I can talk about some resources that I would recommend for curriculum, and maybe I can find some of the free downloads I used to have for book report outlines and essay outlines. Just let me know!

Do you have any tips for parents who may want to take the plunge this year? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Becky

    Thank you for sharing this! I was planning on homeschooling this year anyway, but the whole COVID situation just clinches it. There’s no way that I can see my wiggly boys thriving in kindergarten/ preschool situations under the current guidelines in my state. I know it’s not your usual topics, but I would enjoy reading your curriculum recommendations, since I’m hoping that this will work for our family long term.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      The big thing is Saxon math all the way! For spelling and grammar we used antique textbooks. Seriously. From like 1910. They did it so well then! And they were so comprehensive. I’ll think about writing more on it!

      • Angela Laverdi

        I’m so nervous and also scared about this. I have to home school a 5yr kindergartener WHILE working a full time job AT HOME!!!! Im not Christian but please pray for me y’all 😜

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I will, Angela! You can do it. I’m sorry it’s such a difficult time right now. But it doesn’t need to take too much time! And then I’d suggest setting up “stations” where your child can play–like play doh stations, and block stations. Get lots of books that he or she can look at so that he or she can be entertained and keep busy!

          • Angela Laverdi

            Thank you for the suggestions! Its just hard cause I am very highstrung and easily distracted. Literally I am the problem, not her, lol.

    • Bethany

      We decided to homeschool this year and I’m really hoping to stay in it for the long haul. This is a very encouraging article, thank you! I was hoping you’d write something about this.

  2. Ashley

    Love this post! I’m also a homeschool grad, graduated college with math & chemistry degrees, and now I’m in a Ph.D. Program! I agree with everything you said except I can’t get behind your love of Saxon 😂 I love math (hence the math major) but every math program we tried in elementary school made me cry or wouldn’t click… till we did Singapore math. The teacher’s guide gave a few different ways to teach the material in case the standard way didn’t make sense. They had math puzzles to solve as well as a corresponding computer game. My sister and I also have very different styles of learning and this curriculum worked for both of us! 🙂 But that’s the beauty of homeschooling — there’s plenty of leeway to find the best learning approach for your child!

  3. Joleen

    My husband and I are still in limbo, and our school district is letting us decide if we want full distance learning by August 17th. Our girls want to go to the classroom because they’re social butterflies and thrive when with others. My youngest daughter would be in preschool so it would be her first time ever expierencing the school atmosphere. My son on the other hand is begging to do distance learning because he enjoys getting up late and doing his work at his pace (which is quite fast) and then do other things throughout the day that he enjoys. We keep discussing the topic as a family but still cannot decide which is best due to the rising cases of COVID in our state and wanting to find a new normal for our kids. This past weekend there was an awful storm that rolled through town that took the roof off our high school and so that building has extensive water damage to the top floor of the building so now we’re thinking our high schooler will most certainly be doing distance learning for the beginning of the school year. I really enjoyed my time doing distance learning last spring but I feel as though if I don’t send my youngest to preschool it will be a huge letdown to her simply because the whole potty training was geared toward if you get this figured out you’ll be able to go to school like your siblings, but that was all before COVID was even around.

  4. Elissa

    I was homeschooled all the way through, and so was my husband. We both knew many other homeschooling families, and as far as Saxon math goes, it seems most people either love it or hate it. My husband’s family used it, and he definitely fell into the “hate it” camp. My theory is that Saxon works well for kids who learn math relatively easily – who have a head for it, so to speak – or at least who learn well out if a textbook, but not so well for those like my husband, for whom math is difficult.
    The point ultimately is to know your kid and how they learn best, and choose your curriculum accordingly.
    For those who have kids who struggle with learning math out of a textbook, I would recommend Math-U-See, which is what my family used for my siblings and my schooling. It is a video based program, where each lesson is explained and worked out so the kids can see it, so it works well for students who are more visual learners.

    • Em

      I am very interested in your recommendations for antique grammar books! That sounds really interesting.
      I also have to make a plug for Math-U-See for visual, non math oriented kids. 🙂 It was especially helpful for Trig in high school.

    • Ina

      Yes, this! Saxon is torture for the mathematically impaired learner! It was so confusing! No math program worked for me (even Math U See sadly) until we did an online one with a teacher I could email at anytime and even then, my dad needed to be available in the evenings to work through some concepts with me. But Saxon especially caused so many tears!

    • NML

      I got good grades using Saxon, but I LOATHED it. I do think part if it was user error. My mother hated math. But the thought of going back to Saxon-! I have considered it for my kids, but in the end we do MathUSee, and some MathMammoth.

    • Hannah

      Ditto this. My husband grew up with Saxon and hated it, as did his other siblings who used it. I didn’t use it, but I don’t remember any of my homeschooling peers who used it liking it either. I really can’t recommend it, but I suppose like any curriculum it really works for some kids and really not for others. Just know your kid and pick accordingly, like you said!
      Interestingly, hubby’s youngest siblings use Math-U-See, I think. I’ve heard really good things about that.

  5. Maria

    Your every novel novel guide is great! I’ve been home schooling for 25 years. I used this for the first time last year. Any age can use it for any book. Four kids between the ages of 10-15 used this guide for about 6 novels each last year. A great value!!!!

  6. Kelly

    My son will be a junior in high school. Our school district has the option to either do remote learning or hybrid remote/in-school learning two days a week. He wants to go back to school with his friends.
    He played baseball for two months this summer and is currently attending 5 days a week football practice. So far, nobody in our school district has tested positive for COVID-19.
    Math is not my stron guit so its good that my son is great at math. I don’t know that I could homeschool him at this point, given my work schedule. He’s doing just fine right now but he does miss his friends.
    Fall sports are still in limbo right now though. Which would be sad if they cancelled them altogether. Especially for the seniors 🙁

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So many sad things about COVID, aren’t there? Things that kids have been so looking forward to, and then they may miss out on. I’ve enjoyed seeing your son’s pictures on Instagram! He does look like he’s having fun.

  7. Maryellen

    Yes please share more!

  8. Melissa W

    Just want to comment on the doing basic math skills in your head and spelling as being foundational. They absolutely are, however, if a child is dyslexic or has dyscalculia (math side of dyslexia) they may never master math facts in their head and they may never be a good speller. As a dyslexic, with a dyslexic child I can tell you that you can still succeed and do well in life even if you never memorize or can remember your math facts. At 48 I still can’t do addition, subtraction, multiplication or division in my head. I never will be able to but that is not an indicator of the quality of my education or my intelligence. I just need tools, like a calculator and spell check to do things that others can do in their head. And if your child shows any indication of not hearing the sounds of letters or being able to memorize basic math facts get them checked for dyslexia. There are amazing programs out there like the Barton Reading system that teach phonics and reading in a way that dyslexics can learn it and there are wonderful math programs for dyscalculia as well.

  9. Kate

    I’ve homeschooled my children through the Christchurch NZ earthquakes and now Covid and I can tell you all of Shelia’s points are very true. A LOT of the school schedule ends up being time occupation rather than learning so don’t panic if your child misses a few months of school, this won’t stunt them; teach them to cook and clean, boys included! Home education gives a stability to your children through tough times so is worthy of serious consideration if it suits your family. My kids learnt times tables whilst jumping on the trampoline, there is nothing wrong with that! With regards to early reading I used Phonics Pathways by Dolores G Hiskes which gives kids immediate feeling of reading success and deliberately building up eye muscle reading strength.

  10. rachel

    Yes, I would love to know more! I just started home schooling our 5th and 10th grade sons. (We have an 11th grader who will do online school through our district, and we have 2 college aged daughters who will be attending university online because classes have been canceled. So that makes SEVEN of us all working and schooling from home, very challenging to say the least.)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, dear! that is challenging! I think I’ll talk about it more in my email newsletter this week. It’s just not enough in my niche to do another post, but I’ll talk more in the email. Sign up here!

  11. JenG

    Just wanted to add a teacher’s perspective. Your points are spot on about basic math computation, spelling, grammar, and reading comprehension. It’s what I emphasize to my students many times every year (this will be year 22 for me). They need to be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide; read and understand any text they come across, even something like a bus schedule; and write in clear, coherent sentences. I teach 3rd grade, and I do see gaps when I start with my new class each year, so I address those the best I can while teaching the required standards. My district will be starting the year with 100% distance learning, which adds a whole new layer of difficulty to an already demanding (but rewarding!) job. I want to express appreciation for all the parents and everything you’re doing at home, whether you’re homeschooling, doing distance learning, or returning to school in-person. We couldn’t do our jobs without you!


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